That filter problem I've laid out in my previous blog entry... let's solve it. Unfortunately that code section has become much larger than I expected, so I've concentrated on the various methods to resolve that implicit non-linear equation with the tanh() term. As a drawback I've thrown the highpass input and the inverting lowpass out. They're not overly difficult to put back in once the basic methods are understood. Hope that's okay :-)
Some clarification up front: I haven't invented any of this. It's all pretty standard stuff, but it might not all be very obvious to many people. I know it took me a while to grasp all of this, and it's a bit frightening to see it laid out so simple in front of me now. Hehehe, but wait for the next chapters. This one is still on the easy gear!
Here's your standard active lowpass filter, all naked and without the bloat:
This time I threw KCL right into the graph. Hence we get:
0 = Ivccs - Icap
0 = g * ( tanh(Vin) - tanh(Vout) ) - Vout + s
which leads to following "unsolvable" equation:
Vout = g * ( tanh(Vin) - tanh(Vout) ) + s
To sum this up, the general problem we face is, if we want to compute Vout, we already need to know Vout. It's computed by itself. This article is about methods to do exactly that in the non-linear case, all forgoing psychic abilities. I'll be showing three kinds of basic techniques that are more or less fit to serve this purpose:
- Numerical Methods using iterative solvers
- Analytical Methods using "one step" solutions
- Lookup tables (yep, that works too)
As a helpful addendum, if there weren't any tanh() terms, we'd have a linear equation and we could solve for Vout, like this (which we'll use for various purposes later on):
VoutLin = ( g * Vin + s ) / ( g + 1 )
But first things first... something really helpful to get started with:
Making That Estimate
Every method to solve this kind of implicit non-linear filter works best with a proper estimate. That means, one way or another we "guess" the value of Vout - or tanh(Vout).
The most well known - and probably the worst - estimate is using Vout from its previous computation. While you'll find this recommended often, particularly for iterative methods, it's not necessarily a good starting point. For a one pole filter it's probably better to use the linear estimate. That is, we simply compute VoutLin using the linear equation and start our iterative solver or our one step method from there.
If you look at the graphics in my Numerical Integration article, you'll notice that s (or iceq) is sort of in the middle between two Vouts. It's proven quite useful to use s[n+1] as an estimate for Vout[n+1]. But how about a linear estimate for s[n+2]? (Hint: It ain't good, but it may encourage experimenting, for instance you could blend it with something else)
Lastly, I mentioned lookup tables. If precision is key, calculating the initial estimate from a lookup table and running, say, a bisection solver will work wonders.
Here's our first piece of code:
// member variables:
float Vout; // output
float s; // state
State, // use current state
PreviousVout, // use z-1 of Vout
LinearStateEstimate, // use linear estimate of future state
LinearVoutEstimate, // use linear estimate of Vout
LookUpTable // use lookup table
float getInitialEstimate( float tanh_input, EstimateSource inSource )
if( inSource == LinearStateEstimate
|| inSource == LinearVoutEstimate )
// run linear, update Vout
Vout = runOneStep( tanh_input );
switch( inSource )
case PreviousVout: return Vout;
case State: return s;
case LinearStateEstimate: return 2 * Vout - s;
case LookUpTable: return runLookUp( tanh_input );
Note that, in order to avoid complaints of excessive use of tanh() I have written most functions so that whenever there's an input sample, it's already passed with tanh() applied.
Another convention right here: Methods that start with "run..." don't change the s, i.e. they don't update the filter state. They may however change Vout. Each run... method also has one or more accompanying "tick..." methods which also update the state. Reason is, some methods are called multiple times where the same state is required.
All cases I described are covered. Two cases use a linear estimate, for which they run the lowpass filter without any implicit tanh() term. The linear method is baked into the code for the OneStep solution. The OneStep solution actually defaults to linear if nothing else is specified.
(if you're really picky, you could say that running a linear estimate or a table lookup first turns a one step method into a multi step one... you're right if you will, I won't be splitting hairs over this ;-)
Here comes your CPU smoker right there. Newton's Method aka Newton Raphson etc. is an iterative method, a so called root finding algorithm. What latter have in common, they take a function f(x) and they find one or more zero crossings. They start at some point (estimate!), calculate the result - which is often far from 0 - and use that result to compute a new estimate that hopefully brings us closer to a 0. I really really really wish to not go any deeper about the maths, but if you click the link above it'll take you to Wikipedia.
Source Code! Yay!
#define MAX_NEWTON_ERROR 0.000001
inline float NewtonRaphson_Solver ( float& input, float& estimate, Filter* object )
float residue = object->runFilter( input, estimate ) - estimate;
float numIterations = 1;
while( fabs(residue) > MAX_NEWTON_ERROR )
// new_estimate = old_estimate - residue/derivative
float derivative = object->getDerivative();
estimate = estimate - residue/derivative;
// get next residue
residue = object->runFilter( input, estimate ) - estimate;
if( numIterations > 50 )
// Debug_log("BUG?!? - iterations > 50, returning 0 for safety reasons");
// this can also happen if MAX_NEWTON_ERROR is too small,
// e.g. due to truncation errors
This is, in a nutshell, a Newton Solver that can be reused for any filter that implements two important methods, runFilter() and getDerivative(). It'll call former as often as it needs to bring the estimate closer to Vout. If Vout and the estimate are the same, we speak of "convergence". In a typical scenario, convergence is reached at 2-5 iterations. At worst case (diode ladder filter..?) it should be about 3-8 iterations (but this also requires a slightly enhanced solver).
In-between each call to runFilter() it picks up the derivative of the filter equation at the last estimate. This sounds like a terrible idea, math and performance wise. However, if you refresh your memory for derivative rules (sum rule, chain rule, product rule) and if you keep in mind that the derivative of tanh(x) is just 1 - (tanh(x))2, it's actually not too bad. Check this out:
More Source Code! Yay!
// ------------------------------ tanh'(x) = 1 - tanh^2(x) ------------------------------------
inline float sech2_with_tanh( float tanh_value )
return 1.f - tanh_value * tanh_value;
inline float tanh_derivative( float x ) // not used, for edu purpose only
return sech2_with_tanh( tanh(x) );
Those are two helper functions defined outside our filter class. The first one, sech2_with_tanh, will return the derivative or tanh_value = tanh(x) from, well, tanh_value itself - like I said before, many methods and functions expect their input already tanh()'d to avoid redundant calls to tanh()!
// ------------------------------ Newton's Method ------------------------------------
// member variable:
float tanh_result; // stores tanh(Vout) to reuse whenever applicable
float runFilter( float tanh_input /* tanh(input) */, float v_estimate )
tanh_result = tanh( v_estimate );
return g * ( tanh_input - tanh_result ) + s;
// tanh'(x) = 1 - tanh^2(x)
return -g * sech2_with_tanh ( tanh_result ) - 1.f;
float tickNewtonRaphson( float input,
= LinearVoutEstimate )
float tanh_input = tanh(input);
float estimate = getInitialEstimate( tanh_input, inSource );
Vout = NewtonRaphson_Solver ( tanh_input, estimate, this );
There you go. That's all there is. We tanhify our input, we pick up our initial estimate and then we let our filter visit the Newton-Raphson solver from the listing above. That's all it takes.
This is an utterly common and reliable way to solve implicit non-linear equations. Similar methods are bisection method, regula falsi, secant method and Brent's method. All have different advantages and drawbacks. Some are "bracketed" which means that the actual value remains between two estimates. This guarantees convergence and it guarantees a measurable accuracy. Other methods are ideal for vectorization or computationally inexpensive.
Newton's Method is certainly not the cheapest per iteration and it's also not always guaranteed to converge. In fact, it works best with a good initial estimate. But it's also the method that converges the fastest out of the lot. If it converges. For our filter (or any classic filter topology using tanh() distortion) it's guaranteed to converge. The only reason it may not is, when you drive the filter hard enough to loose the numerical floating point precision to have your residue below the maximum error. If you want to drive your filter hard, maybe adjust the maximum error dynamically to filter gain.
Another reason to promote Newton's Method: It can be put in vectorial form. That is, if we calculate a higher order filter with 2, 3...11 tanh() terms, we need to converge as many estimates with their respective results. And this, in other words, is why some filters can kill the CPU. But before we get there, let's have a look at the aternatives.
Now, I guess pretty much every developer reading this has gazed over Teemu Voipio aka Mystan's "Cheap non-linear zero-delay filters" over in this thread on KVR . What's described there is probably one of the most influentual solutions to avoid the unit delay in both the outer loop and the Euler integration used in this infamous transistor ladder model published by Antti Huovilainen in 2004 (which btw. is a must read as it has been a great catalyst for Analogue Modeling).
The gist of this method is, it belongs to a category of methods that approximates the implicit non-linear equation with a single computation. I've sometimes seen these solutions called "one step methods", hence I'm calling them that way. They are a subset of so-called "analytical" solutions because they use maths to "up front" to get to the result, i.e. the system's properties were analyzed and a fitting solution/workaround was found. In contrast, iterative solvers are called "numerical" solutions because they don't minimize the problem, they just math it out. As computers often do.
A word of caution: Neither of these methods can be as accurate as the numerical ones without additional computation. However, the audible difference might be neglectible if one considers that the CPU usage is not much higher than that of a filter calculated with Euler and unit delays. Up to your preference I'd say ;-)
Addendum: There was a discussion whether or not these methods are analytical. My stance is that while they approximate to the original, implicit system numerically, we could also look at these equations as a system on their own right - which was then solved analytically. Thoughts on that are welcome in the comments section below or on KVR.
Now, the actual solution I'm presenting here is based on the concept that tanh(x) is replaced by a linear term, and quite literally so: What we do is, we replace tanh(x) - which is an s-shaped curve - by a straight line a * x + b. Latter is the general formula for all straight lines that map x to y. Obviously, for each sample we'd try to choose a and b so that our result would be the closest possible to the s-shaped tanh()-curve. Sounds logical? - Well, there's various methods to go by.
The interesting bit is that we can use the very same code for different ways to compute a and b. In fact we can set a = 1 and b = 0 to calculate our filter linearly, i.e. without the tanh() in the negative coupling. We can furthermore set a to tanh(s)/s and b to 0 to compute Mystan's method - which I call "pivotal" because our straight line that approximates tanh() pivots around the origin (x = 0/y=0).
The other method I'll show is one which I think has been used in many products... but I'm not so sure of that... It's essentially based on drawing a tangent to our estimated tanh(x), and then move our function result along that line. This is in many ways identical to Newton's Method, but wrapped into a single step method.
As you can see, the pivotal method is a good "allrounder". However, a fast rise in absolute value can go way out of bounds because the slope is always steeper as values run high.
The tangential method on the other hand is very good if the estimate is good, but then it might deviate even quicker than the pivotal method, particularly after a change of sign on a large jump.
I would love to provide for a full analysis of the two and I'd also love to show more variations, e.g. such that take the statistical error of the estimate into account. But that really would make my head explode right now. So let's just cut it short and post some code:
// ------------------------- linear / analytical methods --------------------------
Linear, // linear solution
Pivotal, // Mystran's "cheap" method, using x=0 as pivot
Tangential // Newton-like linearisation
float runOneStep( float tanh_input /* tanh(input) */,
AnalyticalMethod inMethod = Linear,
EstimateSource inSource = State )
float b = 0.f;
float a = 1.f;
if( inMethod != Linear )
// base variable for tangent/angle
float base = getInitialEstimate( tanh_input, inSource );
float tBase = tanh(base);
switch( inMethod )
a = base == 0 ? 1.f : tBase/base;
// tanh'(x) = 1 - tanh^2(x)
a = sech2_with_tanh( tBase );
b = tBase - base * a;
// surplus, but compilers may complaining if we don't keep it
case Linear: ;
return ( g * ( tanh_input - b ) + s ) / ( a * g + 1 );
Yet again, this is it. That's all there is to it. Or is there? :-)
And again, like in the iterative method, we first pick up an estimate. Then we prepare a and b for whatever method out of Pivotal, Tangential and Linear we wish for. Then we compute Vout directly from that. Here's the path to get to the final equation:
Take original non-linear equation
Vout = g * ( tanh(input) - tanh(Vout) ) + s
tanh(Vout) -> a * Vout + b
Vin = tanh(input)
Vout = g * ( Vin - (a * Vout + b) ) + s
Now Vout can be isolated
Vout = (Vin*g-b*g+s)/(a*g+1)
Note: If a = 1 and b = 0 we get the linear form Vout = ( Vin * g + s)/( g + 1 )
For sake of completeness, let's post the tick functions for Pivotal, Tangential and truely Linear as previously mentioned and as announced elsewhere on KVR:
// method originally described by Mystran on KVR
float tickPivotal( float input )
Vout = runOneStep( tanh(input), Pivotal, State );
// Newton's method in one step with linear estimate
float tickTangential( float input )
Vout = runOneStep( tanh(input), Tangential, LinearVoutEstimate );
// --------------------------- Linear Filter ---------------------------------
// fully linear version, not shaping the input
float tickLinear( float input )
Vout = runOneStep( input );
A short note in-between. Both the iterative method as well as the one step method above seem very simple, and indeed they are - as long as we deal with one pole filters. But as soon as we go further, i.e. with higher order filters, things can become quite nasty. While one can keep iterative methods nice and clean for higher orders, doing a true "vectorial Newton solver" involves matrices and linear equation system solvers.
Therefore you'll often find a mix of different approaches right there in one filter algorithm. E.g. one can do an iterative solver for the overall feedback of a filter while keeping the single stages simple with a one step method. Also, you'll often hear of "corrective steps" which improve the accuracy of one step methods by a second or third computation - which basically also makes them iterative methods.
Everything is allowed - as long as it sounds good.
Anyhow, the focus of this article is teaching the differences of the basic popular methods. There's always a lot more that can be said and done, and I'll be happy to discuss a few more in-depth things later or elsewhere.
Look! It! Up!
Look Up Tables for filters ...whaaat? - Being a bit of an ousider, this method only applies to one pole filters. There's a tiny chance to maybe do it for 2nd order filters, but you'll soon run out of memory. But who knows, maybe this method is great for FPGAs... or someone comes up with great equations that approximate the table solution in 17 dimensions...
The idea is this:
Out of all variables in Vout = g * ( tanh(Vin) - tanh(Vout) ) + s only Vout is unknown, all other values are available beforehand. So how do we get this into a lookup table?
If we rewrite the equation as
Vout = ( -g * tanh(Vout) ) + ( g * tanh(Vin) + s )
We can see that Vout depends on g itself and g * tanh(Vin) + s. Latter we can fully calculate into a single value:
State_gIn = g * tanh(Vin) + s;
Now we can create a lookup table for g in one dimension and State_gIn in another. We can thence use our Newton Raphson solver to populate that table with the correct values for Vout. Next thing you know, you can read Vout from g and State_gIn, without a single tanh() term involved :-) - furthermore, a considerably small table gives us a pretty good result from just bilinear interpolation alone (that is, linear interpolation in two dimensions as used in graphics software).
Hint: a table with 256 * 256 entries and linear interpolation gives us perfect results, but the table is quite big. We could always optimise it by cutting it in half and storing the sign bit of State_gIn, but d'oh... I haven't checked that out yet. Hint 2: Check out 3D plots. You might find ways to minimize the table in one dimension or the other.
Now, for some unexpected fun, here's a small table for a pretty good initial guess:
// ------------------------ two dimensional lookup table ----------------------------
#define numEntries 16
float table[ numEntries ][ numEntries ];
float minG, maxG, maxState_gIn;
float coeffMul, maxState_gInMul;
void createTable( float inMinG, float inMaxG, float inMaxState_gIn )
// using numEntries-2 for boundaries so that
// reading index+1 isn't out of bounds later
minG = inMinG;
maxG = inMaxG;
maxState_gIn = inMaxState_gIn;
coeffMul = ((float)(numEntries-2)) / (maxG - minG);
maxState_gInMul = ((float)(numEntries-2)) / (2.f * maxState_gIn);
for( int i = 0; i < numEntries; i++ )
g = minG + (maxG - minG) * (float)i / float( numEntries - 2 );
for( int k = 0; k < numEntries; k++ )
float State_gIn = -maxState_gIn
+ 2 * maxState_gIn * (float)k
/ float( numEntries - 2 );
s = State_gIn;
table[ i ][ k ] = tickNewtonRaphson( 0.f );
float runLookUp( float tanh_input /* tanh(input) */ )
float inG = g;
if( inG < minG ) return s;
if( inG > maxG ) inG = maxG;
float State_gIn = inG * tanh_input + s;
if( State_gIn > maxState_gIn ) State_gIn = maxState_gIn;
if( State_gIn < -maxState_gIn ) State_gIn = -maxState_gIn;
State_gIn = (State_gIn + maxState_gIn) * maxState_gInMul;
inG = (inG - minG ) * coeffMul;
int State_gIn_index = (int) State_gIn;
int inG_index = (int) inG;
float State_gIn_fract = State_gIn - floorf( State_gIn );
float inG_fract = inG - floorf( inG );
float ingLowSL = table[ inG_index ][ State_gIn_index ];
float ingLowSH = table[ inG_index ][ State_gIn_index +1 ];
float ingHighSL = table[ inG_index +1 ][ State_gIn_index ];
float ingHighSH = table[ inG_index +1 ][ State_gIn_index +1 ];
float ingLow = ingLowSL
+ State_gIn_fract * ( ingLowSH - ingLowSL );
float ingHigh = ingHighSL
+ State_gIn_fract * ( ingHighSH - ingHighSL );
return ingLow + inG_fract * ( ingHigh - ingLow );
float tickLookup( float input )
Vout = runLookUp( tanh(input) );
Ok, it looks a bit more messy than the other solutions, but maybe you can customize it to your needs. Which brings up the final chapter for today:
I doubt that too many people have ever before lost so many words on such a simple lowpass filter. It's for a good cause though, because I hope I could illustrate some of the methods me and others are so conveniently mentioning in the forums all the time. I hope that people will put this to good use and start exploring the possibilities. For instance, adapting the one step method for the one pole lowpass with an inverting input is a bit of a challenge.
To be honest, I'd much rather post challenges than recipes that one could just copy and paste. There's a lot of challenge underlying these technologies. Making them fast, making them more accurate, adapting them for new filter types. It's endless. And also of course, there are more methods - but you gotta start somewhere...
Anyhow, my vacation is almost over, I doubt I'll have time to post the next step anytime soon. Which might include bit about a higher order filter and/or the vectorial Newton method. Which is then also how we relate the principles laid out so far to actual crcuit simulators. or maybe I do another piece about one pole filters that don't have tanh distortion... We'll see...
Lastly, here's the full filter class and utility functions or you to work with. Compiles here, should compile for you too...
Update Feb 27th 2016: The same oversight happened here as in the previous article - I messed up the OTA voltage to current equation. Hence I also changed the schematic and equations in this article to a general concept of a Voltage Controlled Current Source. As promised, I'll try to add a solution for the proper OTA-based one pole filter some time. Also, I added some thoughts on the analytical vs. numerical debate (which slightly confused me as well ;-)